The comically high number of roundabouts in Carmel, Indiana, can be credited to Mayor Jim Brainard. Since taking the helm of the city in 1996, the urban planning-obsessed Brainard has overseen the elimination of dozens of traffic signals and the installation of some 102 roundabouts. Today, the city has more roundabouts than any other town in the United States, and they’re about to get 40 more.
Brainard fell in love with roundabouts on a graduate school trip to England in the 1970s. “Drivers were yielding to traffic and to bikes and pedestrians,” he recalled in an interview with CityLab. “No unsightly traffic signals and no long lines or congestion. It made me wonder why the U.S. had not built more roundabouts.”
Studies have consistently found roundabouts to be safer than conventional stop signs or signal systems. In fact, replacing signals with roundabouts has been shown to decrease an intersection’s number of traffic fatalities by 90 percent (PDF).
In addition to their effectiveness in slowing traffic and making roadways safer, Brainard points to the fact that roundabouts are cheaper to build and maintain than traffic signals. On average, building roundabouts in Carmel cost $250,000 less than installing signalized intersections. And the city saves roughly $5,000 every year for each intersection converted into a roundabout. Check out the full interview here.